Every day for the past several weeks, Gregory Ducante had strolled through the flung-open front door of his newly purchased building to the din of construction. The workers had replaced swaths of dark floorboards, rewired the electricity. They had reconstructed the dilapidated stairs that led to the upstairs office and remodeled both bathrooms to precisely his standards. Each morning, Gregory Ducante would climb the stairs to his office. He would spend precisely twenty minutes reading the newspaper – business section only, as there was little else in those sorts of papers to interest him – before juggling through the paperwork that explained his business holdings, profits earned, inventory systems.
It was his pride and joy, going through these papers, his capitalist endeavors. The root of chaos.
Today, though, as he shook his paper open, something was notably different. There was no scuffling from downstairs, there was no occasional power drill or pounding hammer. Two days prior, all of the polished dark wood furniture had been delivered to the finished bar front. The bar itself – a long, sweeping mahogany number rimmed in polished bronze – was delivered the next day. Gregory Ducante had ordered it from a very particular man overseas whom he had found long ago. Now, with everything in place, the bar was compete. At least in physical structure.
Ducante laid the paper down on his overcrowded desk, rubbing the bridge of his nose between two fingers. The last thing he needed to open this, his latest venture, was a staff. Hiring had long since been his least favorite part of the process; sorting through the ordinary dribble that appeared at his doorstep was far beneath anything that might pique his interest. It was lucky for him, then, that his protege would be making her way into town in the next few days.
Gregory Ducante was not an emotional man. He did not enjoy forming attachments, nor did he particularly relishes friendships. Most people, he felt, were good for two things: what they could do for him, and what he could learn from them. He supposed that Maya Solis was not much different than anyone else – there was a lot that she did for him, and he did not feel much of an emotional attachment. But there was of course a direct link between the productivity of his businesses and the presence of Maya Solis uncharacteristically grateful to the five foot tall, twenty-something soon to be waltzing through his door.
It was hard for him to imagine that he had almost not hired her. That had been five bars prior, when he still took point on personally interviewing and hiring all candidates. How he managed to get through a process that had been like pulling teeth for all of the businesses he had started before then, Ducante had no idea – but that day in his dark fixer-upper in Selvmar had changed everything.
Selvmar was an extraordinary town in that the clientele it attracted was noticeably… different. That did not, however, mean that the applicants to open position of ‘bar staff as necessary’ were anything to write home about. Ducante had long since given up on individual interviews: listening to people drag on and on about their lives, strengths, and weaknesses was utterly agonizing. The group he had interviewed in the refurbished dive bar had been graced with a ten minute lecture, instead of questions about themselves, of Ducante’s philosophy on business, customer service, and the like.
While he spoke, he took in the applicants in front of him. They were all perfectly normal: a few nodded energetically as he spoke. This he found painfully annoying. Others tilted their heads to the side, which gave them the off-putting appearance of looking most like toy dogs. There was one girl who sat quietly, her arms folded over her chest, chewing the corner of her lip as Ducante spoke. She looked like the last thing she wanted was to be there.
As his lecture ended, Ducante shook his head and gave a sigh. He turned towards the bar, leaning his hands on it. “You can all go.”
There was a mumbling and scuffling behind him. One of his chosen few had started to ask a question, but Ducante cut him off abruptly. “That is all I need. You will hear from me later. You can all leave.” He repeated firmly. There was a scraping of chairs, followed by the sound of several pairs of footsteps leaving the bar. The door squeaked as it swung shut behind them.
Yet, as Gregory Ducante turned back to face the empty and as of yet unstaffed bar, his eyes fell upon the girl who had been chewing her lip. “And why are you still here?” He asked bluntly.
The girl stood up, her arms still crossed. “I’m the one you should hire.”
Ducante forced out a bark of a laugh. “Oh, you are, are you? And what makes you say that?”
The girl seemed taken aback by the question, as if her brazen act of rebellion should have been enough to earn her the spot already. “I’m… I’m smart. I’m efficient. I’m bilingual.”
“Bilingual, you say,” Ducante repeated, raising an eyebrow.
“Spanish,” the girl elaborated, tucking a strand of brown hair behind her ear.
“Hm,” Ducante said, taking a few steps towards the girl. His gaze flicked up and down her petite frame. “Well, the rest of the lot was smart and efficient, too. The one who had been sitting to your right,” he gestured to a now empty chair, “Was a recent Harvard grad – when will these kids learn to stop getting liberal arts majors? – and the one to your left was a market manager for a large franchise. What makes you more desirable than they might be?”
The girl bit her lip in what Ducante would come to learn was her nervous, go to habit. “I have other skills. Skills that would be useful in… in this kind of bar.”
“My dear, don’t simply hint,” he said, spreading his hands in a gesture that begged for an example. “You must be more direct if you expect to be taken seriously in this world.”
The girl a quick shake of her head, circling around behind her chair. She leaned down in one fluid motion – extracting a long, wicked looking knife from the side of her tall leather boots – and then stood, flinging the knife towards the bar owner who she had just demanded a job from.
Ducante slid aside as the knife whizzed past his head, embedding itself in the freshly painted wall of the bar. This time, he laughed in earnest as he inspected the impressive stick. “Bravo, bravo. You’ve proved that you can kill my patrons should they neglect to pay their tab. Remind me again why I think you deserve this job?”
Despite the situation, the girl did not seem the least bit bothered. If anything, she looked frustrated by the fact that she had not yet been proclaimed as ‘hired,’ and even more irritated by the fact that her potential employer was examining her knife instead of her. “I know what you are!” She said, her voice raised in an almost frantic way.
Gregory Ducante, who had been about to pull the knife from the wall, froze. “Do you, now,” he murmured, turning to face her. “And how would you know that?”
“Friends in low places,” she said, trying to hold her chin up. “They’re not hard to find, especially in this town.”
“And these… friends. They told you that I’m the sort you want to work for?” He questioned. With slow, measured strides, he crossed back to the bar, examining the spread of resumes that covered it.
She kicked a spot on the polished floor. “They didn’t tell me to do anything. But I can spot you, I know what to look for. And… and others, too.”
“Can you now,” he asked, plucking a paper out of the pile.
“I’ve been around people… people like you for awhile now. I can take care of your bar. I know the type of people you’d get here.” She said, her voice becoming more forceful, more confident. “And if you think that some Harvard drop out can do better than that you’re a – ”
“Ms. Solis,” Ducante said, his chocolate gaze fixing on her from over the top of the resume. “You don’t have to say anymore. You’re hired.”
Maya Solis’ jaw had dropped at these words. She had begun stuttering thank you’s, but Gregory Ducante simply held up a hand.
“Don’t make me regret this, Ms. Solis.” He set down the paper, crossing his arms over his chest again. “You could be useful. For a human.”
In his office above the new bar, Gregory Ducante smiled. Yes, Maya Solis had been useful. Even if she insisted on individual interviews. Resting the paper from the mess of his desktop, Ducante took a deep breath, enjoying the silence that came before the mess that was business.